Scientists have discovered 15 partial skeletons of a new human-like species in Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. The study have been published in the journal Elife.
The species, which has been named Homo Naledi, has been classified in the grouping, or genus, Homo, (most similar to early Homo species including Homo erectus, Homo habilis or Homo rudolfensis) to which modern humans belong.
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The finds includes both males and females of varying ages – from infants to elderly. The discovery is unprecedented in Africa and will shed more light on how the first humans evolved.
The researchers who made the find have not been able to find out how long ago these creatures lived – but the scientist who led the team, Prof Lee Berger, said Lee Berger, from the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute, who led the two expeditions that discovered and recovered the fossils. Prof. Berger told BBC News that he believed they could be among the first of our kind (genus Homo) and could have lived in Africa up to three million years ago.
Homo Naledi characterized by body mass and stature similar to small-bodied human populations, measured about 1.5 meters (five feet) tall, weighed about 45 kilograms (99 pounds). They has humanlike hand, wrist, foot and lower limb.
According to the scientists the new species had hands that suggested it had tool-using and climbing capabilities. While its skull and teeth were similar to the earliest-known members of the Homo genus, its shoulders were more similar to those of apes.
The find was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation.
“With almost every bone in the body represented multiple times, Homo naledi is already practically the best-known fossil member of our lineage, ”
Now one of the most intriguing questions raised by the find is how the remains got there.